Have you ever been, or are you confused by audio bit rates? Does the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bit RateÃ¢â‚¬ kind of scare you? Well this is just a brief dive into seeing what it is and how it affects you as a digital music consumer.
What does the word even mean?
The first thing always needs to be first so what does Ã¢â‚¬Å“Bit RateÃ¢â‚¬ mean? Well it refers to the amount of information that is stored at the time of recording.
The higher, the better so don’t I want the highest bit rate?
There is always a trade off when choosing which bit rate to encode at. Why would you make it something less than perfect quality? Don’t you want the music to sound good? The answer is Ã¢â‚¬Å“of course you doÃ¢â‚¬ but the better the quality (higher the bit rate) the more space the song takes to store.
Have you ever seen an mp3 player that was advertised as being able to hold 5,000 songs or a certain number of songs? Did you also notice it had an (*) asterisk by the number because in the fine print it said Ã¢â‚¬Å“when encoded at 96kbpsÃ¢â‚¬. The better quality the song, the more space it takes up. If you encode all your songs at 192kbps you might only get 2,000 songs on that same mp3 player before it fills up.
What is an acceptable bit rate?
The simple answer it’s a personal decision. Most people can or will be satisfied with 128kbps encoded songs. Have you ever bought a song from the iTunes music store? Well any regular (not iTunes plus) song purchased from the store is encoded at 128kbps. Try out different qualities and see what you think sounds good. Do a blind test with someone else to see if it’s in your mind or you really can tell a difference.
What do the different the bit rates sound like?
* 32 kbits – AM quality
* 96 kbits – FM quality
* 128-160 kbit/s – Near CD quality, can sometimes be obvious (e.g. bass quality)
* 192 kbits – Exceptional quality, can be heard by only a few
* 224-320 kbits – High, near transparent, quality
Kilobits per second is how digital audio is measured. The more bits (information) the better the music sounds. The less information and bits of data that the song contains the worse it sounds, simple as that.
How do I implement my new knowledge?
When you buy a physical CD the music is as perfect as you can get it. If the music wasn’t recorded properly then there is nothing you can do to make it sound better. So you’ve bought a CD and you want to get it onto your computer and put it onto your mp3 player. This is where your new knowledge comes into play.
Using either iTunes or windows media player you can rip the CD onto the computer. What you are doing is you’re taking the songs from the disc and copying them onto your computer so that they can be then copied onto your iPod or mp3 player.
In iTunes you will need to click on Ã¢â‚¬Å“EditÃ¢â‚¬, which is in the top left hand of the program. Then you click on Ã¢â‚¬Å“PreferencesÃ¢â‚¬ which bring you to all the settings that iTunes has. Under the Ã¢â‚¬Å“AdvancedÃ¢â‚¬ tab click on the Ã¢â‚¬Å“ImportÃ¢â‚¬ tab. Because the mp3 format is the most compatible right now you probably want to set Ã¢â‚¬Å“important usingÃ¢â‚¬ to Ã¢â‚¬Å“mp3 encoderÃ¢â‚¬. Under that box you’ll now see options for which bit rate you want to use. Select the custom option if you want something other than the 3 choices listed.
If you are using the windows media player the steps are just about the same. You will need to go into the media players settings and choose your importing (ripping) options.
Am I an expect in bit rate now?
No, there are a lot things that we didn’t touch on but these are the basics. What we’ve talked about is as far as most people will want to get into the technical side of things. There is much more info out there on the web though if this is something that has peeked your interest.
Originally post on Thealbumproject.net
Bryce Jacobson says
For me, I’ll encode most cd’s at 192kbs AAC (an mp4 format that not only is better quality then mp3, but it compresses the file more for a smaller size). If its a really good album I’ll encode it in Apple Lossless format. Hard Drives are getting cheaper and bigger these days so its only smart to encode your music at a higher rate for better quality.
Tyler Hayes says
yeah I think hard drive space will determine some of the format issues down the road.
also there are obviously better formats than mp3, but it is just so widely accepted that it is hard not to use it.
heads up: expect should be –> expert
i agree, these days, in terms of music, there really isn’t a huge trade off in terms of space/quality. Off course that stops when we talk about mp3 players. it isn’t hard to fit your entire music collection on a $120 harddrive, but getting it to fit on an equal value mp3 player is impossible.
it should be noted that the itunes store encodes their songs in a different container format than mp3. supposedly the 128kbsp itunes uses is comparable to something higher in mp3 (i’m guessing 192). it’s also worthwhile noting that the aac-plus container has one of the best compression to quality ratios i’ve ever heard. personally, I use (mp3) -V2 VBR in Lame. If you don’t know about CBR vs VBR i suggest googling or wiki-ing it. VBR is like the middleman in space/quality tradeoff.
Bryce Jacobson says
AAC probably would have caught on more if it was just called mp4. And your correct that a 128 aac is about equal to a 192 mp3.